The textuality and materiality of documents are an essential part of their communicative role. Medieval writing, as part of the interpersonal communication process, had to follow rules to ensure the legibility and understanding of a text and its connotations.
In this case, however, the scribe may well have been right.
Medieval scribes frequently recorded their feelings about their work, the tools they used, and the conditions under which they copied out texts.
The monks jotted these remarks down in the margins of their otherwise carefully penned manuscripts. These informal, sometimes witty notes, known as marginalia, hint at the joys and miseries of life as a scribe.
While a few describe the beauties of nature or a lovely day, many enumerate complaints or excuses. The late Roman and early medieval periods saw the copying of texts move from a secular, professional scribe to a monastic scribe based in a religious establishment.
Early monastic rules make it clear that each monk should be given to the work he does best provided he does not take pride in his expertise. Scribes wrote in bitter cold and searing heat.
They worked as long as the light was good enough to see by and their marginalia record their fatigue. The work was so pressing that an abbot might grant them permission to skip prayer services so they could continue while the light was still good.
Excellent eyesight, usually a trait that disappears with age, was vital to the task. The librarian assigned the text to the scribe.
In addition to having better eyesight than their elders, teenagers probably possessed the endurance necessary for what was actually very boring, repetitive work.
As a scribe aged, his writing might reflect a loss of stamina, as well as the fine motor control necessary to form the letters consistently.
As the marginalia quoted above indicate, the quality of their work did often depend on their tools. A plain medieval stylus dating from c. Pens might be made of cane, reed, bird quill, or metal.
A section of reed or cane was easy to work into a pen: The hollow created by removing the pith held the ink, which flowed through the slit to the tip of the pen. A quill pen was made in the same way simply using a feather from a crow, a peacock, an eagle or other bird, instead of the reed.
Often the feathers were removed from the quill, leaving just the hollow, stick-like portion to serve as the pen. A quill pen was lighter and more flexible than a reed or cane pen. The earliest fragments of a metal pen date to the 13th century BCE.
Both Egyptians and Romans are known to have used metal pens, some of which were shaped to imitate bird feathers. Medieval monks used fine pointed metal pens to trace the lines on parchment. In the later middle ages, monks dragged metal pens with multiple points across a sheet of vellum to create the musical staff on which they inked the square-shaped notes.
The metal pen was durable and precise, especially for creating thin lines. A penknife was an essential tool for the fussy scribe. The knife could also be used to scrape off any mistakes the scribe might make in transcription.
Since an understanding of the work they transcribed was unnecessary, the monks made many mistakes. Surviving texts contain a variety of errors.
A medieval folding penknife found at Alton Barnes, Wiltshire, England. Simple misspellings may reflect unfamiliarity with the language the scribe is transcribing or just carelessness.
The worst mistakes were those that resulted in the loss of whole sentences or paragraphs. A copyist might rest for a minute and then, resuming work, have his eye drop down a few lines from where he left off.
This error happens most frequently when the text contains repetitions of a word, making it easy for the scribe to lose his place if he is temporarily distracted. The excellent, consistent quality of the script in Kells demonstrates the accomplishments of the three scribes involved in its manufacture.
Yet one of them still made this rather glaring error in transcription. Parchment, the animal skin made from cows, goats or sheep, was costly and its preparation inconsistent.
Soft, smooth calfskin and lambskin were prized but the very highest quality skin came from unborn sheep or cows. The best vellum was, naturally, the most expensive and reserved for elaborate display texts, usually of the Gospels. Most monks copied more mundane religious treatises, histories, and other works on less expensive skins.
Often the scribe wrote on poorly prepared skin — it could be rough or even hairy — which made the ink spread unpredictably. Even with a pumice stone to smooth any remaining bumps in the skin, the monk working on bad parchment found his work difficult, tiring, and miserable. Perhaps the ill-tempered medieval scribe who penned this colophon at the end of the text he was copying summed it up best.Arts and Culture Programs offered by Continuing Education.
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Read and learn for free about the following article: Words, words, words: medieval handwriting Writing a medieval text with a quill is hard work. The pen could only make a more or less downward movement because of how the nib was cut.
Medieval script—the handwriting of the scribe—is the material representation of a text.
An . Medieval scribes often complained about their tools and the difficulty of copying manuscripts. The Medieval Scribe and the Art of Writing Victoria Lord.
Columba “Let me not be blamed for the script, for the ink is bad, . This is part 2 of the article on Medieval writing and scripts.
You can return to part 1 monstermanfilm.com this part we take a look at a couple more important scripts and we take an overview look at the history of writing and scripts throughout the medieval period.
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